Praying for the Nation

prayerAs we face the New Year and the threat of the Fiscal Cliff, let me suggest that we spend time in prayer for our nation. Most of my readers are from the USA, but I know this blog is read in at least 40 other countries. Perhaps the following will prime the pump of prayer for your nation as well:

• The Bible teaches that God blesses those nations that keep His standards of justice and righteousness. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Proverbs 15:34 NIV)
• It also teaches that God will discipline nations that defy His standards. “For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined.” (Isaiah 60:12 NIV)
• Our nation has clearly violated many of God’s moral standards.
• The Bible gives examples of individual believers who, convicted over the sins of their nation, confessed those sins to God. Thus, Nehemiah prayed: “O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we have committed, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.” (Nehemiah 1:5-7 NIV)
• God commands us to pray “for all men everywhere,” and especially for our national leaders, with the overarching goal of peace and salvation. “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone– for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:1-4 NIV)
• Holy Scripture teaches that Satan binds the hearts and blinds the minds of the lost, and that we should pray for their release from that bondage. “… if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (II Timothy 2:25-26 NASB)
• Jesus taught that we should pray even for our enemies. “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44 NIV)
• The Bible teaches that we should not be anxious, but instead that we should present our requests to God with thanksgiving, which results in the experience of God’s peace. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

A blessed 2013 to you and your family, and may God lead our nation along the path of repentance!

Reverse the Curse

Reverse_the_curse For those who missed my Christmas Eve message, here it is in brief: The Curse of the Bambino was a superstition evolving from the failure of the Boston Red Sox baseball team to win the World Series in the 86-year period from 1918 to 2004. The curse was said to have begun after the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth (The Bambino), to the New York Yankees in the off-season of 1919-1920. The curse was reversed in 2004, when the Red Sox came back from a 0-3 best-of-seven deficit to beat the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series and then went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals to win the 2004 World Series. That was a thing of beauty!

Folks in Chicago are more familiar with the Curse of the Billy Goat which was supposedly placed on the Cubs in 1945 when the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern brought his pet goat with him to a World Series game against the Detroit Tigers at Wrigley Field. The goat’s odor bothered the other fans so much that he and goat were asked to leave. The tavern owner was outraged and declared, “D’em Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” The Cubs have not won a National League pennant since 1945 and as of 2012 have not won a World Series in 104 years (so apparently the curse covered the 37 yrs before 1945).

Why all this talk about a curse at Christmas? Some of you may think I am going to talk about Christmas shopping. However, in Romans 5 Paul tells us that “Through the disobedience of one man sin entered the world and death through sin…so the obedience of one man brought justification and life for all.” Paul also says in Gal 4, “When the time was just right, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”

The Coming of Christ is seen in the Scripture as the way by which God dealt with the curse of sin and death originated by our forefather, Adam. Many disagree with the doctrine of original sin, but it is the only theological truth that can be experimentally proven. How else do explain the horrors of concentration camps and the random killing of children in an elementary school? Explain the pain of divorce or the damage of abuse; explain addictions and the inability to curb our self-destructive behaviors apart from sin.

This is why the message of Christmas is singularly such good news. “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people. For today is born in the City and you of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2). Jesus fulfilled the promise of God spoken to the serpent in the Garden of Eden, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed, for HE will crush your head and you will bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). Jesus was bruised for our iniquity and wounded for our sin, but He crushed the head of Satan and reversed the curse for all who claim him as Lord and Savior.

Wait, there is more— He is Coming again and will reign in power and glory in a kingdom of perfect righteousness and peace. The third verse (which we tend to skip over) of Joy to the World speaks to this: “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the CURSE is found, far as the CURSE is found.”

The curse of the Bambino- 86 yrs. The curse of the Billy Goat- 104 yrs and counting. The curse of sin and death- reversed! First, in the lives of those who trust in Christ for the forgiveness if sins; second, in the New Heaven and Earth inaugurated at His Second Coming. Such is our hope…MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Falling Off The Moral Cliff

falling off the moral cliffWe are still here … the end didn’t come, at least not just yet. However, I’m sure for the parents and grandparents of the children and teachers killed in Newtown, Conn., life has an end-of-the-world feel to it right now. I have not been led to comment on the shootings, but rather have chosen to listen to others share their grief, fear, anger, frustration, and ideas on how to prevent something like this ever happening again. Part of the reason for my silence is the fact that some things are just too overwhelming to Tweet and time is needed to gain perspective. Another reason is the realization that many people tend to rant and rave, prophesy and pontificate, then snap back to business as usual and forget all about tragedy (especially when the media stops reporting on it) until it strikes again.

Once again we have heard the desperate cries for gun control; pleas for more honest conversation about mental illness, stricter controls of the video game industry selling its violent content to children; and our President’s impassioned plea for love to displace the evil of our society. Commentators on both sides of every issue decry the ineptitude of past attempts to control violence in our culture and “poo-poo” any other solutions except their own. For example, Mike Huckabee made a strong theological case for the presence of sin in the human heart, but felt that gun control was not a solution. Then there are others like commentator Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune who not only shoot down gun control but every other solution that has been proposed— not very helpful, but probably the most honest perspective. Yes, we need to do something and what we do must entail a multiplicity of elements with which not everyone will agree. However, we must honestly admit that whatever we do will not be “fool” proof. This will happen again; some fool will always sneak in a window as our culture of violence regresses from bad to worse.

Romans 1:18-32 is a commentary on our cultural decline— and we are a culture in moral decline. Three times in this passage Paul repeats the phrase “and God gave them over” (v. 24, 26, 28). This is how God’s wrath “is being revealed (note present tense) against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness…” A culture that suppresses what they know to be true about God, suffers the greatest punishment that can be imagined— God gives them over to do whatever their futile and darkened hearts can conceive. Tell me, what is more inconceivable than a teenager killing six and seven year old kids? Paul further describes the culture that God gives over to itself as “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice…they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” Oh my gosh— just like us! We have fallen off the moral cliff!

Wilfred McClay in a recent article in Christianity Today (November 2012) asks, “Can our freedom itself, and more generally the rights-based liberalism we have come to embrace in the modern West, survive without the Judeo-Christian religious assumptions that have hitherto accompanied and upheld it? Though himself an atheist, the Italian writer Marcello Pera has argued that it cannot— that it is impossible to uproot such ideas as human dignity from the Christian intellectual soil in which, historically, they were nourished.”

Our cultural values of goodness, kindness, love, generosity, compassion, etc— all those things we want to teach our children, cannot be sustained apart from the biblical principles upon which our nation was founded, especially concerning the nature and destiny of man. Today was not the end of the world, but it might not be far off. Maranatha!

Why Am I So Sad?

sad christmasWalter Percy asks these compelling questions in his book The Message in the Bottle: “Why does [modern] man feel so sad…? Why do people often feel bad in good environments and good in bad environments? Why is it that a man riding a good commuter train from Larchmont to New York, whose needs and drives are satisfied, who has a good home, loving wife and family, good job, who enjoys unprecedented cultural and recreational facilities, often feels bad without knowing why?” Perhaps it is because we are all on a spiritual search for ultimate fulfillment and don’t know that it must end in a relationship with God. Many people in their journeys turn to nature and find their souls stimulated by its beauty. However, C.S. Lewis makes an interesting comment in his book The Four Loves: “Nature cannot satisfy the desires she arouses nor answer theological questions nor sanctify us. Our real journey to God involves constantly turning our backs on her; passing from the dawn-lit fields into some pokey little church, or going to work in an East End Parish.” We are easily drawn to the mysterious and the supernatural. We love to read books on the amazing religious conversions of some people in history or how others overcame great tragedy. However, we often fast forward over the years of waiting, disillusionment, pain that formed the context of their exemplary lives. We love to tell the Christmas story in all its splendor and majesty while editing out all the pain, the ordinariness, the smells, and the inconvenience which formed the backdrop of the real Christmas. Could it be that our search for God leads us to the ordinary and the difficult rather than away from it? God came into the grinding poverty and harsh reality of a young couple in Palestine and told them that the Son in Mary’s womb would be the Redeemer of the world. God’s Son was not born in a desert hermitage or in the Roman White House but in the back streets of Bethlehem. There is one more thing about pain and disappointment; not only do they often reveal God but they reveal our own “unsanded” natures. A seventeenth century French mystic wrote, “Slowly you will learn that all the troubles in your life- your job, your health, and your inward failings- are really cures to the poison of your old nature.” Thus the very difficulties of our lives which we abhor are the very means of grace in which we can find God and are the raw materials of our spiritual development. Pain is often God’s megaphone (C.S. Lewis). Many of you are facing difficulty this Christmas; financially, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. Don’t give up hope, God is present and He is doing a deeper work in you. May the light of Jesus Christ shine into your darkness this Christmas, and may the grace of our Lord be with you as He uses your difficult circumstances to sand smooth the rough surfaces of your soul.

Funny Headlines

literacy1I like reading newspaper headlines. They cleverly give you the gist of what the article is about and then, at the same time, entice you to read it. For example, in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune were the following: “Emmanuel [mayor] Pulls Plug on Energy Plan”; “Parents Pluck Apples from Kid’s Wish List.” You can probably guess that the first had to do with the Chicago’s electricity rates and the second referred to parents cutting back on expensive Christmas gifts for their children this year— did you know that 48% of 6-12 year olds want an Apple iPad for Christmas? However, sometimes headlines have a life of their own. Here are some actual headlines which leave one wondering “did they really mean to say that? Enjoy…

Utah Poison Control Center Reminds Everyone Not to take Poison

Parents Include Children When Baking Cookies

Federal Agents Raid Gun Shop, Find Weapons

Continue reading “Funny Headlines”